A strong second-half performance has seen Bond University Queensland Country claim their first win of the 2019 National Rugby Championship (NRC) with a 36-23 victory over the Canberra Vikings at Bond University.
Trailing 20-19 at the half-time break on the Gold Coast, Country scored 17 points in the second stanza to secure a 13-point victory.
Bond University products Hamish Stewart and Joey Fittock were among the six try-scorers, while up and coming backrower Harry Wilson also starred for the side.
Country captain Angus Scott-Young said: “Our first half was a bit shaky but our second half was really good and the Vikings are a really great team, it’s really exciting to get a win over them.
“When our reserves came on, we really lifted and they bought a lot of energy.
“The front-rowers who came on at the 60th minute mark really helped us and our scrums lifted from there.
“After last week losing by one-point, it was very disappointing, but to come out with a win today bodes really well for the rest of the season.”
Country opened the scoring after just three-minutes when prop Harry Hoopert burrowed his way through the defence from close to the line to score. In his first NRC start, Carter Gordon added the extras to give the hosts a 7-nil lead.
The Vikings answered back with a Ryan Lonergan penalty-goal, before Country again stretched their lead in the 23rd minute. Tate McDermott was the scorer, the livewire scrumhalf stepping and jinking his way through a mass of Vikings defenders off a lineout to score his second try of the 2019 season. Gordon converted to make the score 14-3.
Two tries in four minutes saw the visitors claw the momentum back after 29-minutes of play, Mackenzie Hansen scoring a double to cut Country’s lead to just 14-13.
The home side soon replied, with Gold Coast local Fittock finding the line in the 35th minute off the back of a neat Wilson short ball after a sustained period of pressure on the Canberra line.
With just seconds remaining in the first half, the Vikings were over for their second try, Andy Muirhead finding the line to secure the visitors their first lead of the game at 20-19 at the half-time break.
The Vikings made it a four-point advantage in the 50th minute through a second Lonergan penalty, before Country hit back to regain the lead, with interchange prop George Francis bulldozing his way through the Canberra defence to score after a number of phases close to the line. Gordon slotted the conversion to make the score 26-23 in Country’s favour.
After dominating possession in the Vikings half, Country secured another five-pointer in the 65th minute through Stewart, who broke through four defenders to haul himself over the line and give his side an eight-point lead.
The Country forwards then delivered the side their next try, a powerful rolling-maul from a 10-metre lineout sending Harry Wilson across the line in the 73rd minute.
With the siren sounded, Carter Gordon was shown a yellow-card, but it was of no consequence, as Country won a tight-head scrum penalty to secure the 36-23 win.
Bond University Queensland Country head coach Rod Seib said: “It was pleasing to see the team respond to last week’s narrow loss and secure a win over one of the competition’s most solid teams at Bond University.
“The team improved defensively throughout the match and our reserves provided us with plenty of impact off the bench.
“The win gives us a platform to work from as we head into a run of two away games against Sydney and the Rising in Melbourne.
“The NRC is a short season and we need to make sure we continue to improve each week if we want to feature at the business end of the season.”
Queensland Country will play Sydney at Woolhara Oval next Saturday, 14 September.
Queensland Country 36 (Tries: Hoopert, McDermott, Fittock, Francis, Stewart, Wilson, Conversions: Gordon 3) defeat Canberra Vikings 23 (Tries: Hansen 2, Muirhead, Conversions: Lonergan 1, Penalties: Lonergan 2) at Bond University Rugby Club on Sunday September 8